Medical Electronics Symposium Conference Proceedings


IS THAT A BED-PAN OR HEART ALARM SOUNDING? DECIPHERING IEC 60601-1-8 ALARM SPECIFICATION

Author: Dan O’Brien
Company: Mallory Sonalert Products, Inc.
Date Published: 5/3/2007   Conference: Medical Electronics Symposium


Abstract: As electronic and software engineers have gained the ability to put more and more functionality into medical equipment, the use of audible alarms as a feedback mechanism has also increased. Many in the medical industry have acknowledged that the increasing number of warning sounds in medical facilities does cause concern with possible auditory overload and confusion.

In an attempt to harmonize alarm systems in medical equipment, international standard IEC 60601-1-8 (issued in 2003) specifies basic safety and performance requirements for using alarm warning sounds in medical equipment. Topics covered by the specification range from the type of medical condition that should trigger an audible warning sound to the very specific frequency and shape of the audible sound waveform. For medical equipment designers who have previously used simple electronic audible alarms, meeting this comprehensive specification is not an easy task due to the complex requirements and the added development time and cost.

One way to lessen the learning curve with IEC 60601-1-8 is to work with audible alarm suppliers who can assist in deciphering IEC 60601-1-8 and offer potential ideas and solutions. Also, future developments in audible alarm technology will help designers meet this specification with reduced development time and component costs.

Key words: audible alarm, auditory alarm, alarm signal, buzzer, condition priority, IEC 60601-1-8



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